30. Ty Ronning, Right Wing
2018 Ranking: 22
Acquired Via: 2016 Draft (Seventh Round)
As great as 2017-2018 was for Ty Ronning, last season was equally disappointing. He started the season in Hartford, getting limited usage. By November, he was sent to the ECHL, where he put up good but not spectacular numbers. By February he was back in Hartford, where his usage continued to be varied. Altogether, he ended up with four goals and one assist in 25 games for Hartford. Not quite the season I think anyone expected for Ronning after he scored 61 goals in 70 WHL games the prior season.
I don’t think Ronning is blameless, but the way the Rangers used him last season did not make much sense, there was no good reason for Shawn O’Donnell and Dawson Leedahl to earn more playing time in Hartford than he did. With everything going wrong for most of the season, I’m not sure why he did not earn a real chance on an offensive line.
Ronning entered last season as an exciting darkhorse prospect and exited as an afterthought. His stock as an NHL prospect is now hanging by a thread. There are still a few things in his favor, though. He’ll enter next season still just 21 years old, and as the depth chart currently stacks up he should have no problem making Hartford next season.
29. Ville Meskanen, Left/Right Wing
2018 Ranking: 24
Acquired Via: Free Agency (2018)
Meskanen was one of the few bright spots in Hartford during the first half of the 18-19 season. His maturity and pro experience in Finland showed, as he came out of the gate with 25 points in his first 38 AHL games. Not earth-shattering production by any means, but certainly enough to legitimize himself as an NHL prospect; especially given Hartford’s lack of offensive firepower.
Meskanen was a total no-show during the half of the season though. He scored just three goals and added six assists over his final 32 games. In fairness to him, Hartford was practically stripped of all its parts during the second half of the season and it was not a conducive environment for playing well. Practically everyone suffered across the board. Still, Meskanen is now 23 and his margin for error is thin.
Meskanen is a strong winger with some offensive hockey sense around the net, but his skating is average and puck skills are nothing to write home about. If the autumn version of Meskanen can return and he gets going in Hartford then perhaps he will reinvigorate his status as a prospect. There is fourth-line upside here, but it’s now or never.
28. Lauri Pajuniemi, Right Wing
2018 Ranking: 28
Acquired Via: 2017 Draft (5th round)
The Finnish winger had a decent but uninspiring post-draft season in Liiga, Finland’s top league. He scored just five goals and added eight assists in 44 games for TPS. At face value, that’s production which should put him on the fringes of relevancy as a prospect. And it sort of does, hence his ranking of 28.
Some context is needed, though. Pajuniemi was pushed down TPS’ lineup because of an abundance of talented wingers. You might have heard of one; Kaapo Kakko. Every so often last season, Pajuniemi would have a shift or game where he’d make his offensive skills evident. His scoring came in spurts, so one could hope that with more playing time in offensive roles he can develop consistency. He’ll get that chance next season with TPS, though he’ll need to display notable progression to keep his relevancy as a prospect.
27. Jakob Ragnarsson, Left Defense
2018 Ranking: 16
Acquired Via: 2018 Draft (3rd round)
Among the many nightmare selections the Rangers made in rounds two-through-seven of the 2018 NHL Draft, Ragnarsson at 70th overall was the one we actually quite liked. Relative to expectations, I’m not sure any Rangers prospect had a worse season.
After a productive draft season in the Allsvenskan (Swedish second division), Ragnarsson struggled mightily this year with Almtuna, posting 0 goals and six assists in 37 games. To compare, he had 4 goals and 9 assists in 37 games the year prior. Injuries certainly hindered him at times, as did the fact that Almtuna altogether had a horrific season. He entered the season a likely candidate to make Sweden’s World Junior Roster but ended up missing the cut. He did improve his play later in the season, but it was too little too late.
As bad as last season was for Ragnarsson, it still is indeed just one bad season. Next season he gets a fresh start with Rogle of the Swedish Hockey League; Sweden’s top flight. Still just 19, Ragnarsson has plenty of time to get back on track here. When he’s on his game, he is a quality two-way defenseman who can move the puck up the ice.
26. Calle Sjalin, Left Defense
2018 Ranking: 28
Acquired Via: 2017 Draft (5th round)
Sjalin started out the Allsvenskan season quite nicely. He was a top-pairing defenseman for Leksands and played well on both sides of the puck. Seven points in 20 games is nothing to sneeze at for a teenage defenseman in pro hockey.
Then, he got injured. Sjalin was concussed thanks to a dirty hit in February, and it shelved him for the remainder of the season.
Vitt skilda åsikter kring den här tacklingen i kväll... Vem håller du med?— C More Sport (@cmoresport) February 27, 2019
Harald: "Det är en solklar femma för mig, det är oförsvarbart"
Mike: "Jag kan acceptera 2+10 minuter som mest!"
Melin: "Har du inga ögon att se med Mike?" pic.twitter.com/0F7KTcRY2q
Injuries have plagued Sjalin his entire career, and last year he even missed some games due to a prolonged illness. It’s why he fell to the Rangers in the fifth round in 2017, and he’s only played a combined 44 games over the last two seasons. As such, he’s been unable to really develop.
Sjalin is still just 19 years old and it’s too soon to write him off. He is going to get a great opportunity next season, as Leksands was promoted to the SHL; Sweden’s top league. Fellow prospect Tarmo Reunanen is a good example of how patience can sometimes pay off, as Reunanen had a breakthrough season as a 20-year-old after struggling to get consistent playing time in previous seasons. The Rangers still own Sjalin’s rights for two more years, so he still has time to establish himself and create a potential future in the Rangers’ organization. He has to stay healthy, though.